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Old 01-08-2010, 09:07 PM   #1
lastig21
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Default Why would cold weather cause cars to break down on the Highway?

Lately I've been doing alot of traveling back and forth between Houston and Dallas. Texas was hit with sustained subfreezing temperatures for the last 2 days (we're not the only ones), and I noticed a large number of cars broken down around Dallas and on 45 back to Houston (many times more than normal). I could understand the cold temperatures preventing a car to start, but wouldn't think it would matter once they reached the highway.

Is there any correlation between the cold weather and broken down cars, or just random bad days for alot of Texans?
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Old 01-08-2010, 11:05 PM   #2
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All I'm coming up with is frozen windshield wiper fluid at positive temps (F). Tires not meant for the temps could get very slippery...sliding around on ice and snow so people feel unsafe and pull over...They notice the dead rat smell once they close windows...

That's all I've got
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Old 01-08-2010, 11:16 PM   #3
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Alternator fails so the battery only carries the car so far.
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Old 01-08-2010, 11:28 PM   #4
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maybe people in texas suck at driving in the snow?
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Old 01-08-2010, 11:33 PM   #5
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They were probably running summer tires. Once the road gets slick, its almost impossible to drive with those things.
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Old 01-08-2010, 11:34 PM   #6
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bunch of people running around with just water in the radiator?
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Old 01-09-2010, 12:14 AM   #7
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Sucks to be you I guess...

It was in the mid 70s here today! I went to dinner tonight with my wife wearing jeans and a short sleeved polo shirt.
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Old 01-09-2010, 02:54 AM   #8
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maybe people in texas suck at driving in the snow?
^^
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Old 01-09-2010, 03:07 AM   #9
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Sucks to be you I guess...

It was in the mid 70s here today! I went to dinner tonight with my wife wearing jeans and a short sleeved polo shirt.
Today was awesome.
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Old 01-09-2010, 06:29 AM   #10
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The cold along with electrical demand are too much for the battery. Keep in mind that the batteries power deminishes the colder it gets. Also keep in mind that the colder it gets, you then start using your heater on high, electric seats, headlights, rear defroster, heated sideview mirrors, front defroster which powers the A/C, etc. etc. All this is too much a strain on the battery and with the battery shorting out, the car comes to a lifeless stop on the side of the road. I always recommend rotating your electrical devices in the car to avoid running all of the above at the same time.
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Old 01-09-2010, 07:39 AM   #11
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Nobody with a brain, even in the south, uses something that cannot withstand some below-freezing temps for all fluids in their vehicle.
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Old 01-09-2010, 07:57 AM   #12
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Nobody with a brain....

And that's where the problem lies.....too many people who own cars with absolutely no clue whatsoever. Take the Ford commercial with the girl who only knows where to put the gas and cannot understand how to "calculate" the mileage she has on an oil change and needs the vehicle to tell her when it needs changing.

And she's probably more representative of the driving public than most think.
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:45 AM   #13
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Quote:
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Alternator fails so the battery only carries the car so far.
Very likely. Winter is huge for new alternator sales.
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Old 01-09-2010, 09:54 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raizinman View Post
The cold along with electrical demand are too much for the battery. Keep in mind that the batteries power deminishes the colder it gets. Also keep in mind that the colder it gets, you then start using your heater on high, electric seats, headlights, rear defroster, heated sideview mirrors, front defroster which powers the A/C, etc. etc. All this is too much a strain on the battery and with the battery shorting out, the car comes to a lifeless stop on the side of the road. I always recommend rotating your electrical devices in the car to avoid running all of the above at the same time.
sounds logical at first but fails when you realize that those of us living in the North (Canada for me) deal with this every year and very few cars just break down because its cold outside.

More likely than not something was already on its way out and just finally failed.

Carbed engines can experience icing which will prevent the engine from running after it warmed up. Not sure if that happens to TBI engines.

Yes the cold can cause batteries to fail but that doesn't happen because it was cold for a couple days. It takes time for that to happen.
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Old 01-09-2010, 11:16 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raizinman View Post
The cold along with electrical demand are too much for the battery. Keep in mind that the batteries power deminishes the colder it gets. Also keep in mind that the colder it gets, you then start using your heater on high, electric seats, headlights, rear defroster, heated sideview mirrors, front defroster which powers the A/C, etc. etc. All this is too much a strain on the battery and with the battery shorting out, the car comes to a lifeless stop on the side of the road. I always recommend rotating your electrical devices in the car to avoid running all of the above at the same time.
I highly doubt most vehicles can outdraw the alternator. We have a fully marked / outfitted Honda Ridgeline that will, though; it has a net loss of about 10 amps if everything is on. That's a lot more gadgetry than the vast majority of people have in their cars, though.
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Old 01-09-2010, 12:02 PM   #16
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The ice/snow shouldn't have been a problem on the highways I was on. We didn't have any snow, and there wasn't ice on any of the major highways. Some of the suggestions make sense, and I thought some of the drivers from the north might have a better understanding then me.

I see this same type of thing usually around May every year, when the temperature first breaks into the 90's. These cars are normally older (at least older on average than those that died in the winter), and I assume its from a failing cooling system.
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Old 01-09-2010, 01:42 PM   #17
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Doesn't the air in the tires compress in cold weather and cause traction and maneuvering issues?
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Old 01-09-2010, 02:27 PM   #18
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Hmm, I'll go out on a limb and say: Very few, if any, of those cars are "broken down". They have merely been Parked/Abandoned because they were unfit to Drive in Conditions.
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Old 01-09-2010, 05:17 PM   #19
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Hmm, I'll go out on a limb and say: Very few, if any, of those cars are "broken down". They have merely been Parked/Abandoned because they were unfit to Drive in Conditions.
That could be, and many of the cars didn't look to be in bad enough shape to be "broken down." I just didn't find the conditions all that poor. Maybe the roads were worse at night.
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Old 01-10-2010, 03:55 PM   #20
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Hmm, I'll go out on a limb and say: Very few, if any, of those cars are "broken down". They have merely been Parked/Abandoned because they were unfit to Drive in Conditions.
I'd go with this.
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Old 01-14-2010, 07:13 PM   #21
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Cars that were already low on tire pressure that became an issue when it got really cold and wound up going flat. I'm not buying the battery idea, these same cars use their AC full time in the hot Texas summer with both the blower fan and the rad. fan on high with no problems..
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Old 01-14-2010, 07:43 PM   #22
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Any mechanical object operating at the extremity of it's ideal temperature range is going to experience greater failure rate. Cars are complex objects with mechanical and electrical components working together, each part with it's own limits.

Chemical reactions slow down (batteries), bushings shrink and get hard and introduce play, metal parts have greater clearances and don't slide/spin/whatever as smoothly, solid state components start acting funny, fluids act more like solids, things that were worn to the verge of needing replacement but not yet leaking open up and start leaking, things that start out frozen are suddenly exposed to heat when it's turned on, things start expanding and contracting funny, gaskets and o rings get hard and brittle and any previously unnoticed cracks get larger as the material contracts in the cold and allow in moisture, etc.

Cars tend to handle extreme heat (eg 110+) much better than extreme cold (below freezing), being that the majority of components (brakes, engine, etc) naturally have to handle heat under normal operating conditions to begin with.

Something as simple as condensation in a distributor will leave a car dead in the water.

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Old 01-14-2010, 08:51 PM   #23
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Cars that were already low on tire pressure that became an issue when it got really cold and wound up going flat. I'm not buying the battery idea, these same cars use their AC full time in the hot Texas summer with both the blower fan and the rad. fan on high with no problems..
Whhhaat?
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Old 01-14-2010, 08:58 PM   #24
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Whhhaat?
Gas changes volume at temperature. Zomg?

Not a noticeable difference in this case, really, but it didn't warrant a "Whhhaat?"

Unless I missed the sarcasm.
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Old 01-14-2010, 09:11 PM   #25
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Gas changes volume at temperature. Zomg?

Not a noticeable difference in this case, really, but it didn't warrant a "Whhhaat?"

Unless I missed the sarcasm.
Aaaand we have a winner. Plus, tires don't cool down when a car is driven. They heat up and pressure increases.
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